Posts Tagged ‘Rodney King Riots’

The Global African: How Neoliberalism Infiltrated Black Politics

January 25, 2016

This is fascinating. It’s an attack on Neoliberalism from a Black American perspective, talking about the harm it has done to Black communities, churches, politics and people’s personal psychology and sense of self-worth. In this piece from the Global African, there’s a discussion between the host, Bill Fletcher, and a professor of Black Studies at Johns Hopkins university, Lester Spence about the harmful effects of Neoliberal economics. The second segment talks about the Paris conference on Climate Change, and the implications this has for communities in the Developing World.

They’re both important issues, but the piece that interested me was the first half, the critique of Neoliberal economics. Lester Spence, the professor being interviewed, has written a book about it. Apart from the economic theory itself, he also wanted to correct and supplement some of the ideas in Cornel West’s book, Racial Matters, and a work on Neoliberalism by a White academic. He admires both books, but states that the leave out vital issues, like the way Neoliberalism has corroded Black people’s ability to organise and their sense of self-worth for Cornel West’s book, and the racial dimension of Neoliberalism in the study of it by the White academic.

For the benefit of their viewers elsewhere in the world, Spence defines what Neoliberalism is. He states that it is the view that people should organise themselves as a business, and that politics and public services should also adopt the methods of private industry, including libraries. This has resulted in the destruction of the notion of ‘the public’. In the case of the churches, it has resulted in a mentality that sees the Bible as a business manual, which if adopted will not only spiritually enrich you, but also materially as well. In this it resembles the teaching of some of the earlier Black cult leaders. This is in line with Neoliberalism generally, which despite the part of the word being ‘neo’, Greek for ‘new’, takes much of its doctrines from the 19th century.

The result of Neoliberal economics, as pioneered by Milton Friedman, has been massive income inequality and the economic devastation of the working class. This has affected all Americans, but African-Americans have been particularly hard hit, in places like Detroit. Spence and Fletcher point out that Neoliberal economics was rolled out when Black Americans were first being elected to positions of political leadership, particularly in the communities that were worst affected. Thus, Black politicians and leaders became the scapegoats, charged with the failures that the economic system had produced.

Spence states that some Black people have prospered through Neoliberalism. These were middle class people, who had the education and affluent background, which gave them the entrepreneurial qualities prized by the system. People like himself. But those less privileged, like citizens with special needs, it has been devastating. They have got poorer.

He also talks about the ‘Black Nihilism’ that the economic system has spawned. This was identified by Cornel West in Race Matters, which was written about the time of the Rodney King riots. In the words of the two conversing here, it’s the lack of love Black people have for themselves and their fellow Black Americans. This takes away their power to combine and organise politically, and replaces it with therapy. The result is that Black politics has been enervated, and the ability to bring about political change nullified.

There is also a distinct racial dimension to the economic theory and its political appeal to specific American demographics. He criticises the White academic’s otherwise excellent study because it ignores this. Spence states that some of the people, who vote overwhelmingly for Neoliberal policies are poor Whites, who are suffering as much as Black communities. This needs to be explained.

Spence has also taken the unusual stem of publishing his book with a small press publisher, Punctum. It’ll be available at the price of a few dollars for about five years as PDF, then free on-line after that. Spence states that he wanted to break out from the ‘honeyed noose’ of academia, and make the book’s publishing, and not just its contents, a political act. He also disliked the appellation of ‘scholar activist’, despite his actions.

This is a very thought-provoking piece from the perspective of one of the racial groups hardest hit by the wretched brainchild of Milton Friedman, von Mises and co. It’s a perspective that needs to be taken into account when addressing the poverty and despair this pernicious theory has created.

Regarding the ‘Prosperity Gospel’, there’s an increasing movement away from it, and some of its worst preachers have attacked it. One of these was the American right-wing Evangelist, Jim Bakker. Bakker was one of the televangelists that emerged in the 1980s, with Swaggert, Jerry Fallwell and the rest of the corrupt crew. Bakker was criminally corrupt, as well as morally bankrupt, and ended up going to gaol for defrauding his church. He has since written a book criticising and denouncing the very theology he used to preach as heretical.

And the doctrine of self-enrichment through religion or spirituality isn’t confined to Christianity. It’s also in the New Age movement. Deepak Chopra, one of the movement’s leading writers, has said that he promotes ‘Prosperity Consciousness’. You can see the same corrupt ideals at work in The Cosmic Ordering Service, another New Age book that told you if you wanted something, you could get it, so long as you went through the proper New Age mental rituals. The Qabbala cult Madonna belongs to is also part of it. This isn’t much like the original Qabbala, which is a complicated system of Jewish mysticism. It’s a radically simplified version of it, which again promises its adherents worldly wealth through practicing a few basic spiritual formulas or exercises. It’s been strongly criticised by mainstream Jewish scholars for both its theological distortions and the massive profiteering involved. The person responsible for the Qabbala cult, for example, sells a copy of the Zohar for up to $300 or so. It might even be more. These are all in Hebrew, but he tells his followers that they don’t have to bother understanding this mystical text. Simply having it will confer spiritual benefits and material wealth. It’s needless to say that this is very definitely not what proper Jewish religious scholars believe.

As for White people voting for Neoliberal politics, my guess is that race, and particularly racial contempt for Blacks, has been an important element of the strategy through which it has been sold to them. Right-wing American politicians have stigmatised Blacks as being feckless welfare scroungers. The interventionist policies used to improve their conditions, such as affirmative action, merely act to prevent the benign market operating as it should. It stops virtuous, well-qualified Whites from getting the jobs they need by giving them to Blacks. At the same time, food stamps, unemployment benefit and support for unmarried mothers mean that Blacks are dependent on welfare and aren’t bothered about getting jobs.

The White poor, who are being fed this rubbish, don’t see themselves as dependent on welfare, despite the fact that many of the most hard-line, fervently Republican communities are the poorest in America. The Young Turks did one piece about a year ago looking at one county in the American south – I think it was Kentucky – where nearly everyone was unemployed and consequently dirt poor. And just about everyone in that county – 97 per cent – were White.

This is also the bilge being fed to people over here. A few years ago, The Spectator, never pro-Black in the first place, began running stories stating that, thanks to left-wing policies, White men were the only demographic group not welcome in London. It was a counterpart to the Republicans’ ‘Southern Strategy’ of targeting ‘Angry White men’. The fear of the economic and social threat of immigrants, whether from the EU or the Middle East, is being used by Cameron to try and frighten voters into allowing him to cut even more welfare benefits. You could see that in the reports Mike posted over at Vox Political on Cameron’s attempts to get the other EU leaders to deny migrants over here the welfare benefits to which they were entitled under EU and their own countries’ laws, which included payments to which they were entitled and which were paid by their countries of origin.

The Republicans and the Tories are using White racial fears to impoverish and degrade Whites, Blacks and other racial groups. And they’ll keep playing on this as long as it appears to work. Blacks and Whites need to unite to stop this, and ensure a better, fairer world for working people, whatever the colour of their skin.

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Rachel Maddow on the Republican’s ‘Southern Strategy’ and Fox’s Demonisation of Blacks

March 27, 2015

Rachael Maddow is an American left-wing news anchor and political commentator on American television. I found this extremely interesting video from her show on Youtube. In it, she talks about the Republicans’ ‘Southern Strategy’. This was formulated in 1970s by Kevin Phillips. Phillips believed that after desegregation, the Republicans would get no more than 10 to 20 per cent of the Black vote. He advised the party that this should not concern them, and that they shouldn’t even try. Instead, they should target White voters, playing on their fears of Blacks and that they would be disadvantaged and discriminated against in their favour.

She shows a 1990s Republican party political broadcast which featured a pair of white hands clenched in rage and despair over a job rejection letter. The White man in the broadcast had been turned down for the job because of ethnic quotas introduced to give more jobs to Blacks and supported by a named politician. The job then urges Whites opposed to this new form of discrimination and fearing their own displacement and victimisation to vote for the Republican candidate. She then goes on to discuss Kevin Philips’ invention of the strategy before moving on to report its latest manifestation in Fox News.

She gives for examples of the way Murdoch’s American network deliberately demonised and played on White fears about individual Black politicians and organisations in order to get White votes. Fox News boasts, and has even copyrighted, the slogan ‘fair and balanced reporting’. It’s anything but. In the four cases she discusses, the broadcaster actually lies to smear its victims.

It attacked Obama’s czar on renewable energy, Van Jones, claiming that he had been jailed for waving a club around during the Rodney King riots. He hadn’t. She talks about how it presented ACORN, a scheme which promoted mostly ethnic minority causes, as one long festering morass of corruption. The scheme has long since collapsed, but in other videos she shows how the Republicans were still mentioning it in order to scare and drum up support from White voters long after its demise.

They also attempted to create political capital out of the New Black Panther Party shouting at and haranguing voters at a local polling station. This was presented as a new form of Black militancy targeting and intimidating White voters. In fact, they weren’t. Maddow herself states that far from being a new, terrifying political force, the New Black Panther Party was ‘a couple of whackjobs’. They certainly look aggressive and extremely intimidating in the footage Fox showed of them. The federal authorities investigated them, however, and found that they weren’t. The other news agencies didn’t bother with this non-story. Fox was one of the exceptions.

And then there was the supposed case of a Black federal official, Sheren Sherad (sp?), who supposedly was found guilty of discriminating against White farmers. That was another lie.

Among the faces repeating these barefaced lies and propaganda were the usual offenders against truth, decency and a genuinely moral, civil society: Bill O’Reilly, Michelle Malkin and the original, archetypal swivel-eye loon himself, Glen Beck.

Maddow concludes by saying that this isn’t about the victimisation of Black per se, it is about the use of the fears of the supposed threat from Black to get Whites to vote Republican. Here’s the video.

I’ve posted it here, as although it deals with American history and political issues, this tactic has cross the Atlantic. Anti-racist legislation here in Britain and the fact that we don’t have a written constitution defending freedom of speech means that such blatant fear-mongering is simply impossible over here. Nevertheless, the Tories and Farage’s UKIP have tried something very similar. Despite it’s claims to be a non-racist, non-sectarian party, UKIP is full of racists, Islamophobes and, in Scotland and Northern Ireland, bigots with a bitter hatred of Roman Catholics. It has the full backing of groups like Britain First, and its members also support other far right organisation like the BNP and EDL. It is a party, which is founded on White fears of Blacks and Asians, and particularly Islam. It is also fiercely misogynistic and homophobic. As for playing on White fears, remember the poster they put up showing a builder in hardhat and high-visibility clothing? This was put up on hoardings up and down the country with a slogan about how British people were being laid off in order to employ cheap immigrant labour. It’s a line that goes all the way back to the British Brothers’ League and the fears about Jewish immigration just before the First World War.

And the Tories very definitely are no better. I’ve blogged before about how they too have used an approach very similar to the ‘Southern Strategy’, but of necessity less overt. The Daily Mail has been running pieces attacking ‘affirmative action’, positive discrimination quotas and other forms of ‘political correctness’, since these first appeared in the 1980s. Other Tory papers and magazines have also repeated this line. In 2004 the Spectator published a piece that stated that the only section of the demographic not welcome in London were White males. It also ran a piece ‘Blackened Whites’, attacking the way anti-racism campaigns portrayed Whites as evil and racist. It’s the same approach the Repugs ran under Dubya attempting to play on the fears and hatred of ‘angry White men’. And it’s significant that for all the more liberal verbiage with which Farage comes out, he attended the CPAC Republican convention.

Maddow shows what’s going on in America. But it’s also only the most extreme and overt manifestation of what Cameron, Farage, and their media friends, like the Dirty Digger and Richard Desmond, are doing over here.